Bringing prime time to video iPod

Small developer sees an opening in the lag for Apple to offer top-level TV shows at the iTunes store.

Even with a few more TV shows added to the iTunes store, Chris Cardone said he just can't get enough good video for his video iPod.

So, increasingly, the Cincinnati-based anesthesiologist has been turning to a little-known program called MyTV ToGo, which lets him take shows recorded to his Windows Media Center PC and put them directly onto his video iPod.

"It's fantastic," Cardone said. There were some bugs with the software at first, and it could be a bit slow, he added. But when he was stuck at the hospital on call for hours, at least he did not run out of shows to watch.


What's new:
As Apple only has a handful of top-level video content at its iTunes store, a small California developer has stepped in to offer iPod video fans access to shows recorded on a Media Center PC.

Bottom line:
It's a classic case of a smaller developer, which can shift priorities quickly, being able to fill needs that take longer for big companies work out.

More stories on video and the iPod

Even with Apple Computer's deal last week to add 11 NBC shows to the iTunes store, there still is a paucity of top-shelf video content for the iPod. Digital recording specialist TiVo is promising to change that, but its video-on-the-go option for the iPod won't be ready until next year.

But in stepped little Proxure, a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based developer, with its $30 MyTV ToGo utility. It takes shows recorded by Microsoft's Windows Media Center software on a PC, converts them and transfers them into a special playlist on the iPod.

The tiny software maker focused on data synchronization software until it debuted the first version of MyTV ToGo earlier this year. That product took recorded TV shows from a Windows Media Center PC and put them on a Pocket PC handheld. Proxure developed the software before portable video devices like the new iPod or Sony's PlayStation Portable became popular.

"We were just fans of the Media Center," said Andreas Benamou, chief technology officer at Proxure. "We built the Pocket PC version, and all of a was just kind of the right place at the right time."

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Video: Making your iPod more like a TiVo
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The company now has more than 1,000 registered users, signed up mostly through word of mouth and a little Google keyword advertising. "We never thought when we built (that) it would grow to that many people that quickly," Benamou said.

My TV ToGo is a classic case of what often happens in the software world. Smaller developers, who can shift priorities quickly, are able to fill needs that take longer for the big companies to work out. For example, long before Apple supported connecting an iPod to a Windows PC, a smaller company had a workaround that allowed such a link. However, being first doesn't always guarantee a long-term market or freedom from competition with the industry's giants. Apple, of course, eventually did begin to support Windows for the iPod and, later, with iTunes.

MyTV To Go isn't the only company trying to find new ways of getting video on the iPod. Elgato Systems sells software for recording TV shows on a Mac, and that product provides a means to convert those shows for the video iPod. In addition, several adult entertainment companies are also creating video content for the portable player.

And in addition to the 300 TV show episodes, Pixar shorts and music videos it sells, Apple also helps people get hold of free video Podcasts. Apple said last week that it has sold about three million videos since it announced the video iPod and the expansion of iTunes in October.

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